The Cook Islands Financial Intelligence Unit (CIFIU) has managed to recover some of the funds taken from a recent scam victim.
The victim, a local resident, was one of three people who
lost more than $70,000 in April.
The victims were all aged over 50.
It was a “Samsung Lottery” scam – one of the three
victims lost more than $40,000.
The scammers were using the Prime Minister’s name to
support their crimes, therefore the Prime Minister’s Office sent out an alert
early in April, warning Cook Islanders of a lottery scam.
Cook Islands FIU head Walter Henry said: “Our
understanding is that the individual that we spoke to, interviewed, we helped
recover some of that money.”
Henry said, however, the victim is now no longer
listening to anybody and decided to engage with a different group of people.
“What you will find is we reach out to them, we engage
with them, provide advice, at the end of the day it is up to them whether they
take the advice ... some say ‘it’s my money, my loss’.”
Henry said that technically, scam matters are not CIFIU’s
responsibility but more of a cybercrime matter.
“We don’t have legislation or cybercrime infrastructure
in place that will determine who will investigate.”
When people lose their money, they want to get the money
back and go to various sources. CIFIU is one of them “because we have easy
“There is a formal process in place that allows us to
quickly reach financial institutions like the bank, Western Union, Vodafone
Scammers operate over a long period of time and will
request any amount of money from their victims, CIFIU earlier said.
Scammers will continue to target that victim using
other fake Facebook pages and scams.
Some of the signs that the people need to be aware of
• Use of Facebook, Messenger or Google mail to
communicate on behalf of a large company;
• Poor grammar or language used in the
• Persuasive tone in conversations designed to convince
or pressure victims;
• Poorly edited official documents showing the victim's
name. e.g.: lottery certificate, formal letters etc
• Hacked Facebook pages of family members and friends
used for communicating;
• Scammers will avoid direct communication using phone
and video calls;
• Scammers use Facebook Messenger to request; Personal
Information and Banking information.
- Share the scheme with family and friends;
- Transact funds for the purposes of a gift or family
support to claim the prize money;
- Deposit funds into a domestic bank account;
- Not alert anyone about the purpose of the
• Scammers will hook victims into the scam with:
- An attractive prize money e.g., $800,000;
- Having personal conversations to gain the victim’s
- Use open-sourced online pictures of people and events
in the Cook Islands to legitimise the scam.
Other signs to be aware of to help someone suspected of
being a victim:
- Change in the person/subject’s social behaviour who is
usually outgoing but insist on staying home – to wait for the delivery of
their prize money;
- A victim will ask for assistance to verify a
transaction recently made is correct and scammers will say they did not receive
any money and will convince the victim to send more money to the same bank
details or to another account;
- Victims will not be open to talk about the scam –
scammers instruct victims not to alert anyone in person, including
authorities but to use Facebook messenger only to communicate.
People caught up in a scam are advised to contact the
FIU, in confidence, on 29182.